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Statistical bulletin: Retail Sales, February 2013 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 21 March 2013 Download PDF

Key Points

  • Users are reminded that the figures contained within this release are estimates produced from a monthly survey of 5,000 retailers in Great Britain.
  • Unless otherwise stated, the estimates in this release are seasonally adjusted.
  • Following subdued year-on-year retail sales growth rates since September 2012, in February 2013 compared with February 2012, both the quantity bought (or volume) and the amount spent (or value) in the retail sector increased by 2.6%. The largest contributions to the increase in quantity bought came from other stores particularly computer and telecommunications equipment retailers, internet retailers and department stores.
  • Looking at the monthly picture, (February 2013 compared with January 2013) the quantity bought and the amount spent in the retail sector increased by 2.1% and 1.8% respectively. These increases were broad based with all the main retail sectors rising between January and February although by far the largest upward contribution came from the non-food sector.
  • In February 2013, the overall proportion of non-seasonally adjusted online sales remained high at 9.7%.
  • The February period covers the dates 27 January 2013 to 23 February 2013.
  • The weekly spend across all retailing was £6.3 billion in February 2013 compared with £6.1 billion in January 2013 and £6.1 billion in February 2012.

key Figures

Table 1: All Retailing, February 2013 (seasonally adjusted percentage change)

      Most recent month on a year earlier Most recent 3 months on a year earlier Most recent month on previous month Most recent 3 months on previous 3 months
Amount spent (Value)  2.6 1.1 1.8 -0.1
Quantity bought (Volume)   2.6 0.8 2.1 -0.2
Value excluding automotive fuel 3.4 2.2 1.4 0.2
Volume excluding automotive fuel   3.3 1.5 1.9 -0.1

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This bulletin presents estimates of the amount spent and quantity bought in the retail sector. The statistics are based on a monthly survey of 5,000 retailers, including all large retailers employing 100 people or more. The timeliness of these statistics, which are published just two weeks after the end of each month, makes them an important early economic indicator. The sector as a whole is used as an indicator of how the wider economy is fairing and the strength of consumer spending.  

At a Glance

In February 2013, the quantity of goods bought in the retail sector (volume) increased by 2.6% compared with February 2012. The amount spent (value) also increased by 2.6% over the same period.  Since February 2012, the prices of goods sold in the retail sector (as measured by the implied price deflator) increased by 0.7%. 

Long Term Picture

To enable a comparison of change, Figure 1 shows the quantity of goods bought in the retail sector (all retailing sales volumes) as indices referenced to 2009. Between 2003 and early 2008, the quantity bought grew steadily. Since the beginning of 2008, growth has slowed and become more volatile compared with the earlier years.

Figure 1: All retailing seasonally adjusted sales volumes (quantity bought)

Figure 1: All retailing seasonally adjusted sales volumes (quantity bought)

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Figure 2 shows the amount spent in the retail sector (all retailing sales values) as indices referenced to 2009. Compared with the amount bought, the amount spent increased at a faster rate since 2008. This indicates that although consumers spent more over this period, less goods were bought due to price increases.

Figure 2: All retailing seasonally adjusted sales values (amount spent)

Figure 2: All retailing seasonally adjusted sales values (amount spent)

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Contributions to Growth

The retail estimates are divided into four retail sectors; predominantly food stores, predominantly non-food stores, non-store retailing and stores selling automotive fuel. In February 2013, for every pound spent in the retail sector 41 pence was spent in food stores, 42 pence in non-food stores, 5 pence in non-store retailing and 12 pence was spent on fuel. Using these as weights along with the year-on-year growth rates we can calculate how each sector contributed to the total year-on-year growth in the quantity bought and amount spent.

Figures 3 and 4, show the contribution that each of these sectors has had to the quantity bought and amount spent in retail over the period February 2012 to February 2013.

 

Figure 3: Contributions to year-on-year volume growth from the four main retail sectors (seasonally adjusted)

Figure 3: Contributions to year-on-year volume growth from the four main retail sectors (seasonally adjusted)

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Sales within the non-food sector provided the main source of upwards pressure to the quantity bought (sales volumes) in the retail sector between February 2012 and February 2013. The largest contributions within the non-food sector came from other stores (particularly retailers of computer and telecommunications equipment) and department stores. There was also an increase in the non-store retailing sector (internet retailers), however falls were seen in petrol stations and food stores.

Figure 4: Contributions to year-on-year value growth from the four main retail sectors (seasonally adjusted)

Figure 4: Contributions to year-on-year value growth from the four main retail sectors (seasonally adjusted)

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In February 2013 the main contribution to the increase in the amount spent (sales values) was from the non-food sector and as with the quantity bought the largest contributions came from department stores and other stores. There were also increases in the amount spent in non-store retailing and food stores.

Food Sector

In February 2013, the quantity of goods bought (volume) in the food sector decreased by 1.2% compared with February 2012. Over the same period the amount spent (value) increased by 0.7%. Average annual store price inflation remained above the 3% mark at 3.2% in February 2013. This indicates that consumers have continued to spend a similar amount of money but purchased less goods due to price rises.

Figure 5: Retail sales in the food sector

Figure 5: Retail sales in the food sector

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Non-food sector

In February 2013, the quantity of goods bought (volume) in the non-food sector increased by 5.4% compared with February 2012. Over the same period the amount spent (value) increased by 4.3%. Average annual store price inflation decreased by 0.9%, indicating that consumers have bought more in this sector at lower prices.

Figure 6: Retail sales in the non-food sector

Figure 6: Retail sales in the non-food sector

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Between February 2012 and February 2013, the rise in the non-food sector is broad based with increases in all sectors. The most significant increases were in retailers selling computer and telecommunications equipment, footwear, sporting goods and toys, medical goods, art, flowers plants and seeds, and department stores. 

 

Amount spent in retail

In the February 2013 four week reporting period, the amount spent in the retail sector was £25.4 billion (non-seasonally adjusted). This compares with £24.4 billion in the January 2013 four week reporting period and £24.6 billion in the February 2012 four week reporting period.

This equates to an average weekly spend of £6.3 billion in February 2013, £6.1 billion in January 2013 and £6.1 billion in February 2012.

 

Internet Sales

Key points

  • The average weekly spend online (Internet sales values non-seasonally adjusted) in February 2013 was estimated at £540.5 million. This is an increase of 10.1% compared with February 2012.

  • The amount spent online accounted for 9.7% of all retail spending excluding automotive fuel.

  • As expected, more was spent online in the non-store retailing sector than any other sector. Spending online now accounts for 64.6% of total spending in this sector. In the food sector 3.6% of spending was made online up from 3.3% in February 2012. This sector has the lowest proportion of online spend in relation to all spending.

Internet sales in detail

Internet sales measure how much was spent online through retailers in Great Britain. Figures are non-seasonally adjusted and the reference year is 2010=100. Table 2 shows the year-on-year growth rates for total Internet sales, by sector and the contribution that each sector makes to total Internet sales.

Table 2: Summary of Internet Sales Performance for February 2013

Category Weight Year on year growth % Contribution to year on year growth % points
All retailing 100 10.1
All food 17.3 9.3 1.9
All non-food 41.4 1.0 0.5
  Department stores 7.0 27.4 1.9
  Textile, clothing and footwear stores 11.7 7.9 1.1
  Household goods stores 8.2 -24.2 -2.0
  Other stores 14.5 -4.3 -0.5
Non-store retailing 41.3 17.5 7.7

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Sector Summary

Predominantly food stores in February 2013, saw an increase in the amount spent (0.7%), compared with February 2012. The quantity bought decreased by 1.2% over the same period as prices of goods sold increased by 3.2%. However, even though overall sales for this sector were down, non-seasonally adjusted data show that online sales in these stores were up 9.3% in February 2013 compared with February 2012. 

In February 2013, average weekly sales in this sector were £2.7 billion, which was more than any other sector. Also in this sector, 3.6% of sales, £97.3 million, were made via the Internet.


Predominantly non-food stores in February 2013, saw an increase in the quantity of goods bought (5.4%) and in the amount spent (4.3%) when compared with February 2012. The prices of goods sold decreased by 0.9% in the year to February 2013.

In February 2013, average weekly sales were £2.5 billion. In this sector 7.2% of sales were made via the Internet, resulting in £177.9 million of online spending. 

Non-specialised stores, or department stores, provided an upwards contribution to the quantity bought in all retailing with an increase of 10.6% in February 2013 compared with February 2012. The amount spent increased by 8.6% in February 2013 compared with February 2012. The prices of goods sold in this sector continued to decrease, falling by 1.8% in the year to February 2013.

In February 2013, average weekly sales were £0.5 billion. In this sector, 7.8% of sales (£36.8 million) were made via the Internet.

The Textile, clothing and footwear stores sector also provided an upwards contribution to the quantity bought in all retailing with an increase of 3.0% in February 2013 compared with February 2012. The amount spent increased year-on-year by 2.9% and the prices of goods remained unchanged in the year to February 2013.

In February 2013, average weekly sales were £0.7 billion. In this sector, 9.2% of sales (£62.6 million) were made via the Internet.

Household goods stores in February 2013, saw an increase in the quantity bought (0.8%) and the amount spent (0.9%) compared with February 2012. The prices of goods sold increased by 0.4% in the year to February 2013.

In February 2013 average weekly sales were £0.5 billion. In this sector 4.9% of sales (£26.4 million) were made via the Internet.

Other stores in February 2013, saw an increase in the quantity bought (7.5%) and in the amount spent (5.3%) compared with February 2012. The prices of goods sold in this sector continued to decrease, falling 2.1% in the year to February 2013. 

In February 2013 average weekly sales were £0.8 billion. In this sector 6.8% of sales (£52.1 million) were made via the Internet.

The Non-store retailing sector in February 2013 saw a rise in the quantity bought, (19.5%), and in the amount spent,(17.8%) compared with February 2012. The prices of goods sold fell by 1.2% in the year to February 2013.

In February 2013 average weekly sales were £0.4 billion. In this sector 64.6% of sales, £265.3 million, were made via the Internet.

The non-store retailing sector comprises of stalls and markets, mail order and those retailers that sell mainly online.

Predominantly automotive fuel stores saw a year-on-year fall in both the quantity bought, (3.8%), and the amount spent, (3.0%). The prices of goods sold in this sector increased by 1.2% in the year to February 2013.

In February 2013 average weekly sales were £0.8 billion.

Distribution Analysis

Table 3 illustrates the mix of experiences among different sized retailers. It shows the distribution of reported change in sales values of businesses in the RSI sample, ranked by size of business (based on number of employees). This table shows for example, that the largest retailers, with 100 or more employees, reported an average increase in sales values of 3.8% between February 2012 and February 2013. In contrast smaller retailers employing 10 to 39 employees reported an average increase in sales of 6.9%.

Table 3: Changes in reported retail sales between February 2012 and February 2013 standard reporting periods (by size of business)

Number of employees Weights (%) Growth since     February 2012 (%)
100+ 78.4 3.8
40-99 2.4 17.1
10-39 6.7 6.9
0-9 12.5 1.1

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Analysis of individual returns from businesses

The reference table, Business Analysis (30.5 Kb Excel sheet) shows the extent to which individual businesses reported actual changes in their sales between February 2012 and February 2013. The table contains information only from businesses that reported in February 2012 and February 2013. Cells with values less than 10 are suppressed for some classification categories; this is denoted by n.a. Note that ‘large’ businesses are defined as those with 100+ employees and 10–99 employees with annual turnover of more than £60 million, while ‘small and medium’ is defined as 0–99 employees .

Background notes

  1. Improvements to be introduced next month

    Not applicable.

  2. What’s New

    Not applicable.

     

  3. Understanding the data

    1.  Quick Guide to the Retail Sales Index (195 Kb Pdf)

    2. Interpreting the data

    • The Retail Sales Index (RSI) is derived from a monthly survey of 5,000 businesses in Great Britain. The sample represents the whole retail sector and includes the 900 largest retailers and a representative panel of smaller businesses. Collectively all of these businesses cover approximately 90 per cent of the retail sector in terms of turnover.

    • The RSI covers sales only from businesses registered as retailers according to the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC), an internationally agreed convention for classifying industries. The retail sector is division 47 of the SIC 2007 and retailing is defined as the sale of goods to the general public for household consumption. Consequently, the RSI includes all Internet businesses whose primary function is retailing and also covers Internet sales by other British retailers, such as online sales by supermarkets, department stores and catalogue companies. The RSI does not cover household spending on services bought from the retail sector as it is designed to only cover goods. Respondents are asked to separate out the non-goods elements of their sales, for example income from cafeterias. Consequently, online sales of services by retailers, such as car insurance, would also be excluded.

    • The monthly survey collects two figures from each sampled business: the total turnover for retail sales for the standard trading period, and a separate figure for sales made over the Internet. The total turnover will include Internet sales. The separation of the Internet sales figure allows an estimate relating to Internet sales to be calculated separately.

    3. Definitions and explanations

    • The value or current price series records the growth since the base period (currently 2009) of the value of sales ‘through the till’ before any adjustment for the effects of price changes.

    • The volume or constant price series are constructed by removing the effect of price changes from the value series. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) is the main source of the information required on price changes. In brief, a deflator for each type of store (5-digit SIC) is derived by weighting together the CPIs for the appropriate commodities, the weights being based on the pattern of sales in the base year. These deflators are then applied to the value data to produce volume series.

    • The implied deflator or the estimated price of goods is derived by comparing the value and volume data non-seasonally adjusted. In general, this implied price deflator should be quite close to the retail component of the CPI.

    4. Use of the data

    The value and volume measures of retail sales estimates are widely used in private and public sector organisations. For example, private sector institutions such as investment banks, the retail sector itself and retail groups use the data to inform decisions on the current economic performance of the retail sector, these organisations are most interested in a long term view of the retail sector that can be obtained from year-on-year growth rates. Public sector institutions use the data to assist in informed decision and policy making and tend to be most interested in a snapshot view of the retail sector, which is taken from the month-on-month growth rates.

     

  4. Methods

    Information on retail sales methodology is available in Retail Sales Methodology and Articles.

    1. Composition of the data

    Estimates in this statistical bulletin are based on financial data collected through the monthly Retail Sales Inquiry. The response rates for the current month reflect the response rates at the time of publication. Late returns for the previous month’s data are included in the results each month. Response rates for historical periods are updated to reflect the current level of response at the time of this publication.

    Table 4: Overall Response Rates

    Overall response rates (%)
    Period Turnover Questionnaire
    Feb 95.5 70.0
    2013 Jan 98.8 79.4
    2012 Dec 96.7 81.3
      Nov 97.3 80.0

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    2. Seasonal adjustment

    Seasonally adjusted estimates are derived by estimating and removing calendar effects (for example Easter moving between March and April) and seasonal effects (for example increased spending in December as a result of Christmas) from the non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) estimates. Seasonal adjustment is performed each month, and reviewed each year, using the standard, widely used software, X-12-ARIMA. Before adjusting for seasonality, prior adjustments are made for calendar effects (where statistically significant), such as returns that do not comply with the standard trading period (see section Methods, Calendar effects), bank holidays, Easter and the day of the week on which Christmas occurs.

    The data collected from the retail sales survey is the amount of money taken through the tills of retailers; these are non-seasonally adjusted data. These data consists of three components:

    • trend which describes long-term or underlying movements within the data

    • seasonal which describes regular variation around the trend, that is peaks and troughs within the time series, the most obvious in this case being the peak in December and the fall in January

    • irregular or ‘noise’, for example deeper falls within the non-seasonally adjusted series due to harsh weather impacting on retail sales

    To ease interpretation of the underlying movements in the data, the seasonal adjustment process estimates and removes the seasonal component to leave a seasonally adjusted time series consisting of the trend and irregular components.

    In the non-seasonally adjusted retail sales index we see large rises in December each year and a fall in the following January, but these are not evident in the seasonally adjusted index. This peak in December is larger than the subsequent fall but the trend and irregular components in both months are likely to be similar, meaning that the movements in the unadjusted series are almost completely as a result of the seasonal pattern.

    3.  Calendar effects

    The calculation of the RSI has an adjustment to compensate for calendar effects that arise from the differences in the reporting periods. The reporting period for February 2013 was 27 January 2013 to 23 February 2013, compared with 31 January 2012 to 27 February 2012 the previous year. Table 5 shows the differences between the calendar and seasonally adjusted estimates.

    Table 5: Retail Sales and Calendar Effects

    Year on year percentage change
    Value Volume
    Calendar adjusted 2.9 2.2
    Seasonally adjusted 2.6 2.6

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  5. Quality

    1. Basic quality information

    • The standard reporting periods can change over time due to the movement of the calendar. Every five or six years the standard reporting periods are brought back into line by adding an extra week. For example, January is typically a four-week standard period but January 1986, 1991, 1996, 2002 and 2008 were all five-week standard periods. The non-seasonally adjusted estimates will still contain calendar effects. If the non-seasonally adjusted estimates are used for analysis this can lead to a distortion depending on the timing of the standard reporting period in relation to the calendar, previous reporting periods and how trading activity changes over time.

    • The non-seasonally adjusted series contain elements relating to the impact of the standard reporting period, moving seasonality and trading day activity. When making comparisons it is recommended that users focus on the seasonally adjusted estimates as these have the systematic calendar related component removed. Due to the volatility of the monthly data, it is recommended that growth rates are calculated using an average of the latest three months of the seasonally adjusted estimates.

    • When interpreting the data, consideration should be given to the relative weighted contributions of the sectors within the all retailing series. Based on SIC 2007 data, total retail sales consists of: predominantly food stores 41.3 per cent, predominantly non-food stores 41.6 per cent, non-store retailing 5.3 per cent and automotive fuel 11.8 per cent.

    2. Standard errors

    The standard error of an index movement is a measure of the spread of possible estimates of that movement likely to be obtained when taking a range of different samples of retail companies of the same size. This provides a means of assessing the accuracy of the estimate: the lower the standard error, the more confident one can be that the estimate is close to the true value for the retail population. An approximate 95 per cent confidence interval for the index movement is roughly twice the standard error. The paper ‘Measuring the accuracy of the Retail Sales Index’, written by Winton, J and Ralph, J (2011) reports on the calculation of standard errors for month-on-month and year-on-year growth rates in the RSI as well as providing an overview of standard errors and how they can be interpreted.

    • The standard error for year-on-year growth in all retail sales volumes is 0.7 per cent. This means that the year-on-year growth rate for all retail sales volumes falls within the range 0.3 ± 1.4 per cent with a probability of 95 per cent.

    • The standard error for month-on-month growth in all retail sales volumes is 0.4 per cent. This means that the month-on-month growth rate for all retail sales volumes falls within the confidence interval -0.1 ± 0.8 with a probability of 95 per cent.

    3. Summary quality report

    A Summary Quality Report (114 Kb Pdf) for the RSI

    This report describes, in detail the intended uses of the statistics presented in this publication, their general quality and the methods used to produce them.

    4. Revision triangles

    Revisions to data provide one indication of the reliability of key indicators. The table below shows summary information on the size and direction of the revisions which have been made to the volume data covering a five-year period. Note that changes in definition and classification mean that the revision analysis is not conceptually the same over time. A statistical test has been applied which has shown that the average revision in month-to-month statistics are not statistically different from zero.

    A spreadsheet giving these estimates and the calculations behind the averages in the table is available on the ONS website.

    Table 6: All Retailing, Volume Seasonally Adjusted, Revisions Triangles Summary Statistics, February 2013

    Volume seasonally adjusted      
    Revisions between first publication and estimates twelve months later (percentage points)
    Growth in latest period (per cent) Average over the last five years (mean revision) Average over the last five years without regard to sign (average absolute revision)
    Latest three months compared with previous three months -0.2 -0.26 0.36
    Latest month compared with previous month 2.1 -0.11 0.45

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  6. Relevant links

    Methodological changes were introduced in the April 2009 and January 2010 releases. For more detail see:

    Changes to Retail Sales Methodology (124.3 Kb Pdf)

    Retail Sales Frequently asked Questions (82.3 Kb Pdf)

    Frequently asked Questions January 2010 (81.6 Kb Pdf)

    Classification changes in Retail Sales (150.8 Kb Pdf)

    Experimental measure of Internet Retail Sales - changes to methods (85.6 Kb Pdf)

     

  7. Publication Policy

    Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the Media Relations Office. Also available is a list of the organisations (38.5 Kb Pdf) given pre-publication access to the contents of this bulletin.

    Accessing data

    The complete run of data in the tables of this statistical bulletin is available to view and download in electronic format using the ONS Time Series Data service. Users can download the complete bulletin in a choice of zipped formats, or view and download their own sections of individual series. The Time Series Data are available. 

    Alternatively, for low-cost tailored data call 0845 601 3034 or email info@ons.gov.uk

  8. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Statistical contacts

Name Phone Department Email
Kate Davies +44 (0)1633 455602 ONS retail.sales.enquiries@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication .
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